How Do You Spend Money When Traveling?

By David DeFranza on 24 February 2008 3 comments
Photo: SqueakyMarmot

The urge to save money is a defining characteristic of the budget traveler. Among travelers there is an endless dialog about cheap destinations, tricks to get a deal, and rumors of sales and specials that will shave a few more dollars off the next trip.

But is there ever a time when it is actually a good idea to spend money? If it will healthfully support the local economy you are visiting, or help accomplish some of the personal goals for your trip, then yes, spending, within reason, is a good thing.

Here are a few items and occasions I look for:

Local beer

If it's available, a locally or regionally produced beer will certainly be part of the culture. Whether it's a finely crafted micro brew, or on par with the cheapest in my hometown, giving the local beer a chance is a great way to get a taste of a place. As an added bonus, I feel like I am supporting a local industry with every pint.

Street food

I am a huge fan of eating on the street. I know it can be hard on the stomach and I know that no one wants to see me stumbling down the sidewalk dripping a sloppy sandwich everywhere. Still, I can't help it. By eating food from sidewalk vendors you are supporting the local economy and promoting a more vibrant street culture. These vendors bring people onto the streets, in the open, and this gives a huge amount of life and character to a place. Street food just happens to be the cheapest way to eat as well. Plus, it's delicious.

Local tour operators

Once in Mexico and friend and I decided we wanted to go snorkeling. Instead of signing up with one of the slick and well advertised tour operators in town, we managed to find a co-operative of fisherman who gave tours in their free time. Spending the day with a local fisherman in his small boat turned what would have been a mundane experience (the snorkeling itself was nothing rave about) into a unique and exciting one.

To find these lesser known operations or individuals, I usually check fliers or ask around town. If I want to arrange something before I arrive, I start with the local tourism bureau or chamber of commerce. Not only is this a great way to have a more personal experience, but it is also a great way to add to part of the economy commonly overlook by tourism.

Craftsman and art collectives

If I am shopping for a souvenir I always look for the shop of a local craftsman. The products at these shops are often a bit more expensive, but offer a true representation of the place I am visiting. Plus, I get to meet some local artists and learn about their work. Often, I find browsing these shops more interesting than a museum visit or tour. Remember to look for things made from sustainable materials.

When I can't do it anywhere else

A great time to spend a little extra is when you find something you cannot do anywhere else. Wise Bread reader Jack asks himself if he could have the same experience at home:

When I can't, it doesn't really matter about how much it costs as it's often a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if it looks like a memory in the making, well, splurge...

Good advice about spending, and about keeping perspective on your travels in general.

Even with all the money saving techniques in the world, we will still spend money when traveling. The real trick is to concentrate on how your money is spent so that it has the maximum benefit, not only for your budget, but for the communities that you visit.

How do you like to spend your money when traveling?

Tagged: Lifestyle, Travel
No votes yet
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


3 discussions

Add New Comment

This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture

When I travel to China (about 3 months every year, for my job) I view not bargaining as a sort of charity, in line with stimulating the local economy.

Most things bought on the street in China have "ridiculous" price tags. No one expects anybody but tourists to pay the full price, and as soon as sellers see foreign faces, they often try to jack up prices even higher. This used to anger me. I saw it as bilking people. And to some extent I still do. But I'm starting to come around. I can pay the "ridiculous" price and still get most goods cheaper than I would in the States. A few extra Yuan isn't going to hurt me, but it might do a lot of good for a vendor.

Guest's picture

I try to have one good meal at a local place every day, the rest of the day I nosh on local snacks and beer. If I you plan that meal for lunch you can save a bunch an still get all the local tastes and color.
In my younger days I used to do jelly packets at Micky D's for breakfast. My travel budget's a bit better nowadays, now I hit local bakery where I can get get the day started on the cheap.

Guest's picture

This is a very timely post, for me! I'm off to Mexico next week to spend some time relaxing with family in a seaside village. Since I'm in debt-reduction mode, I'm a little nervous about how to continue to save money when I'm traveling. I'm a little afraid that being out of the country on my first 'real' vacation in years will inspire me to spend money (and put $$ back on the credit cards) that I normally wouldn't spend.

Great tips, and I'll definitely be considering these as I sip local beer on the beach next week!